Bodyweight Training | Your Essential Guide

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What is bodyweight training?

Just as the name suggests, bodyweight training does not require free weights or machines. Rather, the individual's own body weight provides the resistance. Not only is it a fun and highly effective form of exercise, it promotes better all-round fitness, can burn a ton of calories, builds strength and muscle, improves coordination, endurance, speed, flexibility, coordination and balance.

Bodyweight training uses basic movements such as pushing and pulling, bending, twisting, squatting and balancing.

What are the best bodyweight exercises?

While there are literally thousands of bodyweight exercises to choose from, Some of the most basic bodyweight exercises include squats, lunges, pull-ups, push-ups, plank variations and sit-ups.

Thanks to such an extensive range of bodyweight exercises to choose from, you can easily tailor your workouts to your specific fitness goals.

Some of the best bodyweight exercises

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Pull-ups
  • Plank variations
  • Dips
  • Push-ups
  • Burpees
  • Hip Thrusts
  • Rows
  • Box Jumps
  • Pistol squat or 1 leg squats
  • Handstand push-ups
     

Benefits of bodyweight exercise

  • Accessible, convenient and easily modifiable to suit all fitness levels and goals.
  • Minimal equipment required.
  • It’s safe and can be done without supervision.
  • Progressive exercises and workouts.
  • Can be done anywhere anytime.
  • It’s free!!
     

Cons of bodyweight training

With any form of exercise, there are a couple of negatives to consider before committing to bodyweight training:

  • While bodyweight training does offer progression, if your main goal is to build muscle and strength, it may not be the most effective form of exercise for you. Whilst adding more reps, exercise variations, static reps and more volume to your workouts will help you progress up to a certain point, you will inevitably hit a wall that only adding weight and/or equipment can resolve.

  • Despite having a huge amount of exercises to choose from, some of the very best exercises simply cannot be done or replicated with bodyweight alone. Deadlifts – The king of all exercises is a prime example. While you can always find a way to work all of the different muscle groups achieved through deadlifts individually, the return on your investment of time won't yield equal results.
     

How to progress with bodyweight exercises

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Bodyweight training is highly progressive and while technically to remain within the realms of bodyweight exercise you don’t have the option to add weight to your workouts. However, there are many ways that you can increase the intensity of your workouts without the need for free weight and machines. Here are a few examples:

More reps: As your fitness level and awareness of the exercises improve, you can increase the number of repetitions you do for any given exercise.

More Volume: Once you hit your rep threshold, you can add additional sets to increase the volume of your workouts.

More challenging variations of exercises: Every exercise has a more challenging variation. I’m going to use the squat as an example. A traditional bodyweight squat is one of the very best exercises around but it can become less challenging over time. By substituting the conventional squat with the Bulgarian split squat, jumps squats or single leg squat, you will add a new dynamic and challenge to your workouts.

Plyometric variations: Plyometrics or plyometric training is basically jumps. By adding a jump or hop to traditional exercises like squats, lunges and push-ups, you can drastically increase the difficulty of the exercises.

More challenging combinations of exercises: Increase the difficulty of your workouts by using supersets and giant sets. Both of which are when you use various exercises in a row without rest (Either same or opposite muscle groups).

Add static reps: Static reps are when you hold and maintain the position at the most challenging part of the exercise. Say you usually perform 10 reps per exercise, on the 10th rep of each exercise, pause at the most difficult point of the exercise and maintain that position until either, your muscle fails or you lose form. 
 

Sample bodyweight workouts